Sandra Moreno (BS '22)

A portrait of Sandra Moreno smiling.

She wasn’t even old enough to vote in 2017, but when TWU psychology major Sandra Moreno was in high school, she mobilized a force strong enough to impact a school board election.

While a senior at Lincoln High School in Dallas’ inner city, Moreno felt she and her classmates were getting short-changed on their educational experience. There weren’t enough teachers qualified to teach advanced classes, and her concerns didn’t seem to be getting the attention she believed they deserved.

Moreno thought a change in leadership at the board level was needed, so she embarked on a campaign to register voters and pick a new trustee in her district. “I wasn’t the only student complaining -- just the only one who wanted to do something about it,” she recalled.

Not really knowing what steps she should take, she reached out to a community activist, who introduced her to other engaged residents. They, in turn, encouraged her to organize students so their collective voices could be heard.

Students didn’t view voting as a way to get change, so I knew we had to change their minds.

Initially, students staged a walkout and then a petition drive, but neither seemed to help their cause. It wasn’t until Moreno was advised that it would be at the ballot box where real change could occur. “Students didn’t view voting as a way to get change, so I knew we had to change their minds,” she said.

With the help of activist mentors, Moreno organized a band of students to create a candidate forum in her voting district. At the first one, more than 200 students – most of whom were eligible to vote – attended. “That forced candidates to recognize that students have voting powers,” Moreno added.

Her group started organizing other events, and taking every opportunity to register new voters. At election time, a new board member was elected to the district. While it’s not certain what factors tipped the balance in that election, clearly, her fellow students had a role.

When I first did this, I was timid. But I knew I had to do something out of my comfort zone. And I knew I wouldn’t be at peace if I didn’t do this – and nothing changed.

“I still get messages from students at the school, asking what they can do to get other students interested in voting,” Moreno says. She plans to help her old classmates mobilize voters in the next election, too, although she said there’s nothing really special about what she does, other than have a strong will.

“When I first did this, I was timid,” Moreno recalled. “But I knew I had to do something out of my comfort zone. And I knew I wouldn’t be at peace if I didn’t do this – and nothing changed.”

I still get messages from students at the school, asking what they can do to get other students interested in voting.

Page last updated 3:40 PM, November 26, 2018